Real lives

In eastern Ukraine children suffer as fighting breaks water supply

UNICEF delivered first aid medical kits to provide immediate medical care for thousands of displaced children and their caregivers

UNICEF helps meet the hygiene and water needs of children affected by the crisis in Ukraine.

In Ukraine, children suffer as conflict continues

Colored pencils, drawing albums, books and games – basic but so necessary items for children.

Volunteer Vova: “A simple window pane separated me from death”

With the support of social workers, Maria was able to avoid the biggest mistake of her life

Inna: from Kyiv to Odesa. Hostage of circumstance

Angelika from Mykolaiv: looking for home

The most vulnerable children are the most affected in the conflict in Ukraine

Maria: “I feared for the lives of my children. There was no question, I had to take them away”.

Mother of two children from Donetsk: It is necessary to build a new life. And we are going forward.

Sisters from Luhansk are overcoming their fears after life in the conflict zone

One boy’s journey of change and coping with crisis

12-year-old Sumaya from Crimea is back to being ‘herself’ thanks to the psychosocial support she received from UNICEF

Football helps street children to become fans of sport and healthy lifestyles

Young activist asserts the rights of her HIV-positive peers

Liuda is sure that prevention will help her to give birth to a HIV-free baby

Prevention and treatment will make it possible for HIV-positive Kateryna to give birth to a healthy baby

Social workers provided care when all other people gave up on dealing with me, Maria says

Hard life is hard to change

An attempt to start a new life

What matters in life – success in football

Vinnytsya Becomes More Child-Friendly

Korosten Became More Friendly to Children with Disabilities

“Football gives me different life”

Football did not let him down

There is a way out. Widening a range of services for the most-at-risk adolescents in Mykolaiv region

A mistake in your life is not a full stop; it is a comma

A Boy from Odessa: from the street life to the dream of becoming a famous footballer

Changes that save lives: a story of success

Children with special needs: “To be not worse than others!”

From darkness to light: A social worker’s story

A true meaning in life: success with football

If to compare him today and then – it’s as different as day and night

Indifference may ruin lives: Children who No one Helps

A better life for at-risk girls in Ukraine

Hope in darkness - Olena’s story

Street children in Ukraine are among the most vulnerable groups to get HIV/AIDS

“Fathers are as important for newborns as mothers”

Child development in Chernobyl-affected Ukraine

Anastasia Polishchuk: “We thought that our child was just cutting teeth and we almost lost her because of meningitis”

“I had never even dreamt of such wonderful big family...”

Mediation as Implementation of the Right of the Child to Legal Protection

Sebastien’s story: A young Haitian earthquake survivor speaks

Breast-feeding: a Woman’s Happiness, a and Society’s Maturity Test

God and the Sun

The Price of Safer Sex Goes Up

The Duties of Real Men

Joined Hands Can’t Be Wrenched Apart

A Perfect Future

I did not want my son to be an orphan

I will not give him up… I will not be able to live knowing my child is somewhere along…

HIV positive mothers in Kherson oblast in Ukraine know their children can be born virus-free

Children’s authority in the world of adults

“It’s Just a Bug”. The Story of One Unvaccinated Boy’s Struggle with Meningitis



A true meaning in life: success with football

© UNICEF Ukraine / 2012 / M.Koryshov
Alina in the premises of NGO “Way Home” supported by UNICEF

By Jenia Luchmann

Alina Zelutina, 19, believes that her long-lasting love for football brings not only satisfaction and joy to her life but also offers her a chance to interact with other young people. She says it gives true meaning to her life.
Alina’s life however began in difficult circumstances.

Alina and her twin sister’s father was killed when they were still small and their deaf mother did not really care much about them. The girls were neglected.

Her mother who originates from Moldova and currently lives in Odessa, Ukraine, says she doesn’t want to see her daughter and Alina claims she doesn’t want to see her mother either - the memory of neglect and lack of care from her mother’s side is too painful. Alina occasionally meets her only aunt who didn’t forget about her and her sister during the hard times of their childhood.

When Alina and her sister were born they lived in a hostel for deaf people along with their mother. However, Alina’s mother lost custody over her two daughters many years ago and when the girls turned five they were sent to a children’s home where they lived until they started to go to a boarding school for disabled children. She says they were sent there because of their hearing problems.

© UNICEF / 2012 / D.Xanthópoulus
Children are preparing to the UNICEF Football Cup

Alina is now helped by a UNICEF supported NGO called “Way Home” in Odessa, but her journey there was long and difficult.

As part a social outreach programme, Way Home organise summer camps every year, and Alina and her twin sister Oksana spent their summer vacations there while at boarding school. But, when the girls left the institution they had no idea what to do and where to go. Luckily they were invited to Way Home by a social worker and as Alina explains, she was happy to move there. Along with her sister, she quickly grew accustomed to her new life.
In the centre which Alina now calls home she has many friends who share her interests such as football and dancing. She currently studies at Odessa Marine Transport College and her twin sister Oksana at Odessa Pedagogical University. She is looking forward to starting a life on her own but as Alina admits she is ready for it physically, but not psychologically.

Over and over Alina emphasizes the importance of football in her life. She started playing football during her stay in the institution and later found an opportunity to continue her passion for the game. Her level of professionalism as a football player increased during competitions conducted among teams of vulnerable children from different regions in Ukraine with the support of UNICEF, and social workers have praised her sporting talent.
Now Alina plays football every day at the playground near Way Home, as she is now 19, she has several years of football experience. She has attended several football competitions and has played in Kyiv, Odessa and Donetsk together with 20 other children in her team.

Alina’s favourite international football team is Real Madrid, but at home in Ukraine, her heart beats for Dynamo Kyiv.  Alina admits that she is not really sure whether to choose her Marine profession over being a professional football player in her future life but says she wants to travel a lot in order to discover the world. Then again, she wants to continue to play football on a professional level. Somebody suggested applying to a Sports University and she says she will think about this as an option. One thing is clear: Alina’s dedication to football has become the most important part of her life and she is going to continue playing, even if her favourite sport remains her favourite pastime.

Between 2009 and 2011 UNICEF, together with its partner organizations, has supported programmes for the most socially vulnerable children in the cities of Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, Donetsk, Kyiv and Mykolaiv. These prevention projects have proven their effectiveness and UNICEF continues to work with its national partners in Ukraine to strengthen social services, families and communities, and to provide a better protective environment for children. The projects help the children to gain life-skills while receiving social support. Together this helps to prevent them from ending up on the streets.



 Email this article

unite for children